Almost every neighborhood in America has that house. It’s the house that children avoid like the plague as they pick up their pace walking past it on the way to school, terrified by (sub)urban legends of what lurks inside. It’s also the house that renovation-crazed adults love, undeterred by rumors of satanic rituals and sinking foundations and obsessed with getting their hands on the ultimate fixer-upper no matter how spooky it may be.
As a kid, I most certainly had that house in my neighborhood. It was a hulking, turreted Victorian in a magnificent state of disrepair that reminded me of the Bates House from “Psycho” (which I watched at way too young of age). In the home lived a seldom-seen woman with long white hair and a gnarled face, a supposed witch, whose rumored age fell between 95 and 115. Legend had it that the witch woman kept a graveyard out back and that there were booby traps in the front yard buried underneath layers of overgrown weeds, placed there to maim underage trespassers. I kept this in mind as I rode my bike quickly by the house, periodically glancing to the side to see if the witch woman was watching me from behind musty curtains in her tower room, just like Norman Bates’ mother.
This was all suburban legend, of course. An old but not-witchy woman did actually live in the dilapidated house and when she eventually died at the age of 102, her family home was transformed from a Boo Radley creep-fest into a sterile, un-menacing mini-mansion. I was away at college when the gut rehab occurred, but I’m guessing the contractors had a field day with that one.
It turns out, even the fabled Hollywood Hills has that house. And guess what? It’s for sale for $15.2 million. Although the 16-year-old, 9,800-square-foot Runyon Canyon manse perched high above Los Angeles at 2450 Solar Drive lacks the classic, rundown haunted house atmosphere (it’s Mediterranean-style and pink, after all), it’s not without eerie rumors.
“Pocked by boarded-up windows and gang graffiti, a jumble of hanging wires and holes cut in the living room ceiling,” The New York Times writes that the home “is the subject of gossip and rumor-trading, some of it outlandish, but some, it turns out, quite true. It is feeding Los Angeles’s fascination with real estate, sumptuous homes and a good plot — and all the better that it is a real estate whodunit.”
So what exactly are the rumors swirling around 2450 Solar Drive? Some believe it was built on an Indian burial ground a la “Poltergeist.” Some believe the home’s 22 private acres serve as an alien landing site. Others believe it’s just straight-out haunted. What is true is that gangs, partying teenagers, squatters, drug users and occultists have all “used” the house for various purposes over the years. Ralph Sanchez of the Hollywood Hills division of the LAPD tells The New York Times: “You would not believe it: from gang members to Satanic worshipers. You name it. The doors were pried open, no matter how many times we nailed them shut.”
This is where Kirk Morgan, an armed guard hired by the home’s owner, comes in. Morgan, who was brought in “to run off the gangs, squatters, crack smokers, interlopers and curiosity seekers” and lives on-site in a camper van parked outside of the home, dismisses the more supernatural hearsay: “It just blows you away what you hear from these people. Like it is owned by the Devil. I am a man of the Lord. There ain’t no Devil here. I salted this house and also had my Indian friends come over and burn sage.”
So there you have it: an unfinished, never-occupied five-bedroom mansion in the exclusive Hollywood Hills with sweeping views, a swimming pool, 200-bottle wine cellar, and a history of satanic rituals and gang activity. This brings me to the question: where do you draw the line when it comes to potential fixer-uppers? Have you rehabbed a home with a less-than-inviting history? Do you live in what used to be that house?
Although the home is indeed being marketed as the ultimate fixer-upper by real estate agent Richard Klug, I don’t think all of the zero-VOC paint, sustainable landscaping, rooftop photovoltaics (it is located at 2450 Solar Drive, after all) and good vibes in the world could cast off the home’s icky history. After reading about the home — apparently, there’s still a faded sketch of a devil on the wall in a windowless room — you couldn’t pay me to even spend a single night. Well, okay, maybe you could.
For more backstory on 2450 Solar Drive, head on over to Curbed LA.
Photos via Curbed LA
Aerial photo via Sothebys International Realty